All in all, last Thursday in Minneapolis was quite the eventful night for Chase Claypool. He led the Steelers in receiving with eight catches for 93 yards (11.6 average), and after the first of those – a 6-yard gain in the first quarter – he was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness after he poked cornerback Bashaud Breeland through the helmet with a finger. In the second half during the Steelers' furious comeback from a 29-0 deficit, Claypool had a nice combat catch for a 38-yard gain, he had a 14-yard reception that converted a third down, and he had a 9-yard catch that converted a fourth down with less than a minute to play.
But it was the 9-yard reception that had the staying power in terms of what people remember about Claypool's night.
The Steelers were out of timeouts and the clock was running when Claypool made the catch, and what followed was a series of events that cost the team an undetermined amount of time in the effort to score the touchdown plus the 2-point conversion it needed to turn its 36-28 deficit into a tie that would send the game into overtime.
After the loss, Coach Mike Tomlin was first to be interviewed, and this was the exchange with the media regarding Claypool's night:
Q: It looked like you benched Chase Claypool for a while.
A: I did.
Q: Was that because of the penalty?
Q: Was the message received?
A: We'll see.
When Claypool was brought to speak to the media later that night, he was asked about the sequence in the fourth quarter that began with his 9-yard reception on a fourth-and-1 play that began with 42 seconds remaining and ended with Ben Roethlisberger spiking the ball to stop the clock with 25 seconds left.
"I got tackled near the hash, did my little first down point, went to hand the ball to the ref," said Claypool, according to an account of the interview in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He (the official) just got there. Even if I got right up and looked for him, he wasn't there. He ran down the field to come get the ball. The ball got knocked out of my hands. That's what cost us time. But I definitely do have to be better. I knew the situation."
During his Tuesday news conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Tomlin was asked whether he had determined how much time was lost during that sequence, and whether he had discussed the issue with Claypool.
"We don't wait for stuff like that to happen to address it," said Tomlin. "That's built into our two-minute teaching at team development, and obviously he had a misstep in that area. He had missteps in other areas. He's a young guy who's growing and developing in a lot of ways. That (growth and development) can't happen fast enough for him, and it can't happen fast enough for us. We're going to continue to push that growth and development as long as he's a willing participant. He has been, and so we're just gonna keep moving forward.
"That can be said about a lot of guys. These guys don't come to you as finished products. That's another component of coaching that I embrace, and we collectively embrace. It's the reason why we make what we make and why there are so many of us, because these guys are less than finished products in most instances when we get them. And so, there's a growth and development that has to take place. You guys are witnessing growth and development in Diontae Johnson, not only in quality of play in skills relative to his position, but in maturity. He's a year older than Chase, and so that's going on all around us.
"We're seeing the pains of growth and development sometimes when young people have to participate. We see inconsistencies in Pressley Harvin's performance. We've had less than ideal plays from Pat (Freiermuth). But we know that we're pouring into something in all of those guys, although there's some short-term negativity associated with the pain and discomfort that they go through in terms of growing and learning. We know the benefit, individually and collectively, of staying on task and them gaining that expertise and experience. And it's reasonable to expect some of those hiccups to disappear, and some quicker than others."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"I'm really excited about the potential inclusion in this mix of some people who have missed some time. After the game I mentioned a willingness to turn over stones in an effort to improve, and I said that because I knew the 10-day or 11-day time period between games would give us an opportunity to get some people back, and we're excited about that. We get a chance to maybe look at Carlos Davis and Isaiah Buggs (ankle) on the defensive line. T.J. Watt (groin) and Alex Highsmith (knee) both have an opportunity at outside linebacker. Joe Haig (Covid) and J.C. Hassenauer (pectoral) in the offensive line. Joe Haden (foot) and Robert Spillane (knee) are two others who have had roles of some significance who could have an opportunity to get back into the fold. We'll see where their participation and the quality of their participation leads us. We got a good practice that we're planning for tomorrow. We'll carry pads tomorrow to give some of those guys an opportunity to display readiness and see where they are, and it can better aid us in terms of some the decision-making that we're going to have to make as the week unfolds in terms of who we go to and who we don't go to."